Mendo Yum: Crabcake Cook-offs (and Everything Crab)

A January culinary confab has some serious claws.

...AND WINE: Mendocino County, if our arms were big enough we'd wrap you up in a giant gratitude-filled hug. Sure, it's the beginning of the year, and sure, we're feeling a little emotion-happy after the holidays, but dang it if you don't know how to bring the big-sized savory food parties. We're talking the multiple-day, multiple-business, multiple-town gourmand gatherings, not a single weekend to-do that lands at one place for a couple of hours. And you go one better: You add "wine and beer" to your food fests, like the mondo mushroom festival in the fall and January's crab confab. If only every foodie party thought like you and threw in a beverage or two in the party's very name. Smart thinking, for sure. It's also smart to make your food fests wide-scoped, meaning that crab festival isn't just about steamed crustaceans, but crabcakes and crab soup and crab fishing, too (we do love activities mixed in with all the dining events).

AND THE SKUNK TRAIN, OF COURSE... which gets in the fun by hosting a ride themed to the food festival at hand. The Crab, Wine & Beer Festival will get crackin' -- yep, we said it, but we practically had to -- from Friday, Jan. 17 through Sunday, Jan. 26. And nope, you don't have to be up Mendo way for all the days, though you'll want to find out what crabby haps are going on on what particular dates (for example, the Skunk Train's Crab & Wine Express chugga-chuggas on Jan. 17 and 25). This is what we recommend: Go up for a couple of nights, ride the train, go to a crab feed, and make sure you bring your favorite seafood fan. Then if the two of you totally dig it -- yep, we said "dig," but we practically had to -- then figure that the Crab, Wine & Beer Festival can be your holiday gift to each other from here on out. We do like later-in-January holiday gifts, because they give foodies something to anticipate when the holidays bid farewell.

Check out the whole sked before making for Fort Bragg, Mendocino, Little River...

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